Last week we began a 4 week series entitled Flesh looking at the incarnation and what it meant when the Bible says “the Word (Jesus) became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” What it means that Jesus became 100% human and what it means for us to be more like Jesus. To talk through the idea that if we become more like Jesus we truly become more human.
So last week we talked about incarnation which means to take on flesh and live like Jesus so that people can perceive the glory of God. Jesus didn’t just come to die for our sins, but also to teach us how to be human. Last week we focus on the heart behind the incarnation, which is to invite people into the family of God, not just to make converts. If we claim to be a follower of Jesus, then we must live out 1 John where it says that if we claim the name of Jesus we are to walk as he walked.
This week we are going to talk about what is known as street cred or in other words the reputation of those who are called Christians. What is the rep that we have in the world? If you Google Christians are, the top few results are: Christians are annoying, Christians are hypocritical, Christians are mean, and Christians are fake. And in relation when you Google Jesus is… the top few results are: Jesus is savior, lord and alive. And if you ask other people about Jesus you would most likely get Jesus is love, grace, etc.. So why the gap between the street cred/reputation of Jesus and the street cred/reputation of Christians? The natural street cred of our movement is pretty bad. Yet as we watch people speak about Jesus, we find that he had and has a much better rep/cred than we do. People talked about Him all the time curiosity and intrigue followed His story. People were tweeting like crazy about what they saw in this life.
Remember the 5 Step grid that we talked about last week that goes like this. Incaranation/Reputation/Conversation/Confrontation/Transformation. Incarnation should naturally lead to a good, curious, interested and positive reputation among people. In Acts 5, when the church was just forming, a young couple were killed because they lied to the community. Word spread about what happened and Acts 5:13 tells us the end result of this. Acts 5:13, “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.” So here was the reputation of the early church. While people were scared to join them, they at the same time had huge street cred/reputation. As we follow Jesus, who had the greatest street cred/reputation, people should be watching and talking about us. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are liked, because sometimes when we live the Kingdom of God it does fly in the face of the Kingdom of this world.
This week I was meeting with someone and we were reading and studying the Bible together and we were going through Matthew 3 together and looking at the story of John the Baptist. We talked about the idea that John was the opening band for the headlining band. We talked about the idea that John’s role, as he says it in Matthew 3 is that he was to make straight paths for Jesus. And John’s role is our role as well. A key point in incarnational living is this, we are the ones who prepare the way of Jesus. And what people say about you is important in whether they will say great things about Jesus later. Right now we know that the world isn’t that impressed with our movement, and the way to change that is to start walking as Jesus walked.
But how did Jesus walk? How did he get great street cred, even 2,000 years later? Let’s look at 4 things that Jesus did that I believe lead to his great street cred.
1. Jesus was human. This may sound unimportant but people thought the Messiah was going to be a cross between Billy Graham and the latest greatest action movie star. Someone who was almost otherworldly or so high and lofty and powerful that humans could barely related. Or if you would cut Jesus light would come shooting out and not blood. No Jesus gets street cred because he was a normal human being.
Look at Luke 3:23. Probably not a passage of Scripture that anyone knows by heart. But as we talk about flesh, it is probably one of the most important incantational verses in all of Scripture. Luke 3:23 simply says this, “Now Jesus himself was thirty years old when he began his ministry.” So how long was Jesus just living in the neighborhood before he started talking about the new Kingdom? 30 years. 30 years of being a normal guy. Living life with his family and friends. In fact something you never ever see in Scriptures is this idea coming from those who grew up with Jesus, like “Jesus, I always knew something was “not quite right” with him. He was always different and now I get why. No, it was more like Jesus? You mean Mary and “Joseph’s” boy? Can anything good come from Nazareth? Jesus was known as a local, a native, a human.
I wonder if people don’t like Christians because we try to act less human, more deity like. I wonder what might change if we instead tried to be more human in the way that Jesus was human?
2. Jesus worked a job. Just like you and I have to work a job, Jesus had one as well and I’m not talking about his “ministry” job. In Genesis, Adam and Eve sinned and brought curses upon humans. Women would now struggle with childbirth and men would have to work the land and toil to make a living. Think about this, when Jesus came to earth as a sinless Savior, he still submitted to work a 7-5 job, day after day. I wonder if our daily mundane struggle is more important than we living in living incarnationally? Prayer and work, according to Trappist monks, are the same. There, according to Jesus, is no division between the sacred and the secular.
3. Jesus picked fights in public. In all the 4 gospels we read the story of Jesus fashioning a whip, going into the temple, and overturning tables and driving out the merchants who were ripping people off. Imagine what people said about Jesus after that day. One of the reasons people don’t respect Christians is that we don’t do what our Scriptures say. The Kingdom of God talked about in Luke 4/Isaiah 61 is about deep systematic social changes. The book of James talks about pure religion being looking after the orphans and widows, yet so few of us fight for things that God fights about. I wonder if we should all start finding something to fight for? What could we as a community come together and fight for? Or what are we already fighting for together?
4. He was a friend of sinners. Jesus primary reputation or street cred, if you will, was that of a “drunkard and glutton”: another Scripture says that Jesu came “eating and drinking”. You don’t get a reputation as one of “those guys” by doing an occasional outreach event. You get that type of reputation because you actually do eat and drink with “those people” all the time. They called Jesus a friend of sinners, and this may be the main reputation we need to try to emulate.
To be a friend of sinners means you’re going to have to overlook sin. Yep, Jesus ate with people who were sinning, and eating with someone meant you accepted them as they were in that moment.
Get a context for sin. Jesus was able to overlook sin for the moment because he knew the undying reason people sinned. We need to take on the flesh of Jesus and instead of judging people, maybe the first thing we need to do is to get to know people and hear their story. And then maybe we’ll understand also what might be good news to them.
Be with them as fellow sinners. People struggle with Christian judgment not because we judge but because we separate some sins as worse than other sins. We become self-righteous, which means we don’t think our sins are as bad as other sins. We all have a list don’t we that we rank and classify sins by. You might put homosexuality up on top, and pride on the bottom. (Jesus probably would honestly reverse that one if there were actually a scale of sins)
To be incarnational, to take on the flesh and blood of Jesus in our world, means that we have to be friends of sinners as sinners ourselves so that people will in time want to have a conversation. We can’t fix people, but we can live a life where people come to us when they are ready to talk.
Consider this one fact this morning. Jesus who never sinned was the least judgmental person the world has ever met. If we truly follow Jesus, shouldn't Christianity be the least judgmental faith? This week maybe each of us could consider apologizing to someone we’ve judged.
So let’s unpack the concept of the street cred of Jesus vs. the street cred of Christians. Let’s talk about the 4 things that Jesus did that gave him street cred, and how we as followers of Jesus might live out these 4 things so that maybe the street cred of Christians would actually increase and that people then would want to know about the good news that we proclaim and profess to know and to live. Let’s talk about how we as Veritas can lives these 4 things out through us and into the community.
1. Share a story of a time when you became aware of the difference in the street cred of Christians vs. the street cred of Jesus?
2. What stood out to you the most in relation to the 4 things that Jesus did that earned him great street cred? (1. Jesus was human. 2. Jesus worked a job. 3. Jesus picked fights in public and 4. He was a friend of sinners.) Why did the one you chose stand out to you the most?
3. Out of the 4 things which one do you struggle to live out in your own life? Why? How could Veritas help you grow in that one thing?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?